Archive for August, 2009

Review: Bladnoch, John MacDougall’s Selection 16 yr. old

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

John MacDougall’s Selection (distilled at Bladnoch), 16 year old, 55.8%), $120
Bright gold color, and bright in flavor too. Very much in the Bladnoch style, with  honey-kissed lemon, tangerine, kiwi, creamy vanilla, lightly toasted marshmallow, marzipan, cut grass, and hay. Richly textured for a lowland, and palate-coating (a tad oily, too!). The extra years have added some depth, while still retaining a youthful zest. Very enjoyable.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 87

Boycott Scotch?

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Yes, there’s more politics relating to Scotch whisky. This time it’s an effort to boycott British goods and services (including scotch) because of the controversial decision to repatriate the Lockerbie bomber’s release.

Here’s the story from the Daily Telegraph, and here’s one of the main websites urging the boycott.

Thoughts, anyone? (I don’t usually post about politics, but I thought this might make for good discussion.)

The schedule for my live whisky reviews on Twitter this week

Monday, August 24th, 2009

This weeks live reviews on Twitter will feature two single malts that are getting a lot of buzz these days. The whiskies, and the times of my reviews, follow. Both tastings will occur at 4pm EST.

Wednesday, August 26th: Highland Park Hjarta

Thursday, August 27th: Glenfiddich 50 year old

One benefit to joining us is the live discussion after my review. I stick around and answer questions for anyone who has any. So, if you are on Twitter, follow me on Wednesday and Thursday.

I’ll still post up my reviews here on WDJK soon afterwards, if you can’t make the live reviews.

Three new “must buy” American whiskey classics!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Two are bourbons (one a rye-formula bourbon, one is a wheated bourbon). The third is a rye whiskey. I rated all three as “Classic”, meaning that they all received ratings 95 or higher.

I reviewed all three within the past few weeks. But, in case you are just joining us, or you have been away on vacation, I wanted to bring them to your attention. All three are stunning, and it’s not often to have three classics coming on the market around the same time.

Below I’ve listed the whiskeys, along with the links to my reviews. The first one is just hitting retailer’s shelves. The second one will be released in September. The third one, will get into circulation around November.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17 year old bourbon (Batch #1)

Parker’s Heritage Collection “Golden Anniversary” bourbon

Rittenhouse Rye, 25 year old, Single Barrel (Barrel #1)

These are all limited-edition bottlings. Try to get at least one of these before they disappear. And if you can, get all three, since they are all different styles of whiskeys.

Be my friend on Facebook

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Continuing the theme from my last post, I’m now starting to use Facebook for business, so why don’t you “friend” me? My plan is to use Facebook to show a lighter, less formal side of my life with whisky.

Maybe I’ll post up photos of my bar or my whisky “accumulation.” (I don’t think of it as a collection.) Or it might be general ramblings about whisky, or behind the scenes activities during the trips I go on.

I might post some thoughts on what I am drinking “informally” at the moment. Who knows? I might even include a video clip or two. 

It’s also a way for us to engage in less formal conversation, and for other  “friends” to join in.

If you’re on Facebook, look me up. Send a friend request. The link here should help get you there.

And for those of you not on Facebook or Twitter, don’t worry. None of these ancillary activities will take away from my time here on WDJK.

My purpose (regarding whisky) as I see it

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about whisky and how I fit into all of it. It’s a very dynamic time in the whisky business–and in the publishing business. How should I proceed?

Everyone goes through life trying to decided how they fit into the broad scheme of things and what their purpose is in life. (Well, they should, anyway.) And I was trying to decide what my purpose is relating to whisky.

I’m really not into writing books. I’ve been asked more than a dozen times, but have declined every offer. There are enough whisky books out there. The world doesn’t need one more by me.

And I have no goal to taste and review every whisky ever produced. The commitment to such an endeavor would take too great a toll on my health and family. I’m glad we have Jim Murray and his Whisky Bible, but that’s not my thing. 

I don’t even think if myself as a whisky “expert.”  I don’t even like that word. I’m more of an entrepreneur who worked hard and found a way to make a living promoting something he really loves: whisky! Other than that, I don’t think I am different than any of you. I’m just another whisky enthusiast.

Fortunately, over the years, I’ve somehow earned the respect of the whisky industry enough where they allow me special privileges, such as getting samples of whiskies before they are released, private interviews with master distillers, VIP distillery tours and the like. I realize that most of you don’t have these privileges.

So, what I have come to believe is that my purpose relating to whisky is sort of like a conduit. I take the information I get and pass it on to you, with or without my opinions, depending in whether I think it’s warranted.

And there’s no better time for me to be doing this, because there are now so many platforms in which I can share this information with you: print media, WhiskyFest, our website, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and my public speaking engagements.

I want to be approachable to you. So many of the other whisky “experts” aren’t. Say “hi” to me at Whiskyfest, e-mail me, follow me on Twitter, join in on this blog, be my friend on Facebook, come see me at a tasting, etc.  The more I can share what I know with you, the better. And I’m trying to offer you as many platforms in which to do this.

If you think I’m on the right path, let me know. And if you think I should be going in a different direction, let me know that too.

Thank you!

Review: Rittenhouse Rye 25 year old

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Rittenhouse Rye, 25 year old*, (Barrel #1), 50%, $190
Surprisingly lively. Very much like the 21 year old release in this regard, but not as spicy on the nose or palate. Instead, it’s replaced by a layered, satisfying sweetness—not by wood, like the  somewhat lethargic, oak-dominated 23 year old release of RR. Older doesn’t mean that it tastes older. Deep, nutty toffee foundation, with nougat, candied tropical fruit, and shoo-fly pie (think molasses). The spices (cinnamon, spearmint, vanilla, cocoa powder) emerge mid-palate and linger, warming the finish. Not as vibrant as the 21 year old expression, but more sophisticated. I can’t speak for the other barrels in this lot, but I think this one is a great example of what a 20+ year old rye whiskey should taste like.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 96

Some additional thoughts:

I gave the 21 y/o a 92. I really liked it. The 23 y/o only got an 87, because of the extra oak. That was probably generous. Some of you might want more rye spice up front, but there are younger rye whiskeys to satisfy you in this regard.

There are 38 barrels of this whiskey–the last of what Heaven Hill has from the original 95, all distilled in 1984. 3,000 bottles will be shipped within the US, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

All three releases have been single barrel releases. This is important. Take note of the barrel #. Mine is Barrel #1.


*This is a sample that’s 2 months premature. This whiskey doesn’t turn 25 until October. I don’t expect it to change in two months and will confirm when the whiskey is released formally. Look for it in November or December.

Review: Four Roses Mariage Collection (2009 Release) bourbon

Friday, August 21st, 2009

This whiskey, due out next month, is nice, but I think I like last year’s release a little more. (I rated that 89.)

Regarding the two recipes I mention below, the first recipe combines a 19 year old bourbon and a 10 year old bourbon (recipe code “OBSK”). The second recipe is a 10 year old bourbon (code “OESO”).

OB indicates their 35% rye formula. OE is their 20% rye formulate. Malted barley in both is only 5%.

Note that the ABV is a range, not exact. That’s because I got my sample so early, they haven’t yet identified exactly what the strength is.

Four Roses Mariage Collection, 2009 Release, (57-59%), $80
A combination of 10 and 19 year old bourbons with two different recipes. Very spicy, but no excessive oak (given the 19 year old component). But still, there’s definitely more oak than last year’s release, and maybe more than I would like for balance. Along with the cinnamon, cool mint, cocoa powder and nutmeg, there are caramelized sugars and bright citrus notes. This is a tight whiskey too—not heavy and lethargic, like some 10-plus year old bourbons can be. The flavors are crisp and vibrant, all the way to its polished oak, tobacco-tinged finish.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 87

One final note. I’ll be reviewing the new Rittenhouse Rye 25 year old single barrel live later this afternoon at 4pm EST on Twitter. I just got the review sample this morning. It will be the first public review of this whiskey. If you’re not doing anything, join in on the fun (@JohnHansell). I’ll be comparing it to the two previous releases, the 21 and 23 year old.  If you can’t join me today, I’m hoping to post a review up here over the weekend on WDJK.

Review: Jefferson’s Presidential Select, 17 yr. old bourbon

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I originally reviewed this live online yesterday via Twitter. This is a 1991 vintage, and one of the last years that Stitzel-Weller produced whiskey.

So far this year, this is one of my top two new bourbons (the other being the new Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary). Although, I think that the soon to be released William Larue Weller and George T. Stagg from Buffalo Trace might challenge this whiskey, based on the samples I tasted in the Buffalo Trace lab last week.

This whiskey is getting into circulation right now, so go out and get a bottle (and a piece of history). To me, Stitzel-Weller and Michter’s are like Brora and Port Ellen in the Scotch whisky world–silent distilleries that once produced some great whiskeys.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select (Batch #1), 1991 Vintage, 17 year old, 47%, $90
A wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller distillery. A gentle, richly-textured whisky, loaded with fruit and spice. Black raspberry jam, caramel apple and papaya, along with warming cinnamon and subtle teaberry, on nutty toffee, nougat and creamy vanilla. Spicy, polished oak finish. Superbly balanced, sophisticated and very drinkable. An outstanding whiskey!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 96

Wemyss single cask edition malts will debut in U.S. at WhiskyFest San Francisco

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Details here on the WhiskyFest blog.